Brandon town budget easily defeated
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | May 01,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Wilda Harris, seated left, keeps her eye on the ballot box as Brandon residents vote on the municipal budget Tuesday at Neshobe School in Forest Dale.
BRANDON — Residents let their discontent show when they soundly defeated the budget Tuesday by 282 votes.
In a turnout 7 points higher than that of the original budget election, Brandon residents voted to rescind the $3,292,280 budget, 672-390.
The budget had been approved in March by an 8-vote margin, 428-420. It prompted a successful petition campaign to put it on a special ballot.
After learning the results Tuesday night, Devon Fuller, chairman of the Select Board, said the board will now need to come up with a new budget to put before voters for approval. He said the budget presented on Town Meeting Day was cut significantly and it will be hard to find places to further reduce it.
“If we drop the Rec Department (entirely) it might put us where we need to be,” Fuller said. “That seems like what people want us to be — that the Rec Department is not important.”
He added that cutting the Recreation Department, whose director went from a part-time position to a full-time position in the defeated budget, would be the easiest way to reduce the budget and allow the town to keep a fourth person in the Department of Public Works.
“This is all guessing,” Fuller said. “It will have to depend on what the board wants to do.”
The reason for the petition was an almost 6 percent increase from last year's $3,105,900 budget; the increase included a 10.2 percent increase in taxes.
The increase in the budget can be attributed, in part, to the addition of a fourth DPW position, which was eliminated several years ago to save money. Also, the replacement of the town's front-end loader and the expansion of the Recreation Department added to the increases.
The 10 percent increase equals 0.70 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $129.50 a year, for an average Brandon home valued at $185,000.
Earlier in the day, Town Clerk William Dick said the flow of people voting was consistent throughout the day. Because it was only one ballot item, he said, there were no lines.
“They were not bursting through the door (when the polls opened),” he said.
During the March elections, 866 people voted, or about 30 percent of the town's population. At around 1 p.m. Tuesday the town clerk said more than 500 people had voted with six hours to go.
“It's looking encouraging to be more than at town meeting,” Dick said.
He said the board will now work to reduce the budget before it goes before voters again.
“I hope it's soon,” Dick said.
Fuller said the Select Board will probably discuss the budget at its meeting next week.